When my colleagues and I were still trainees, there was not much else happening in our lives outside of graduate school. I was involved with research seven days a week, and never felt that my life was too focused, or that I was missing out on much outside of the lab. I had a great community of fellow trainees to share my graduate studies and postdoctoral learning experiences with.
However, times change and likely for the better as society as a whole is much more focused on work-life balance and achieving great things in multiple areas of life. In fact, the top graduate and postdoctoral awards (i.e. Vanier Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships) require that applicants are ultimate achievers in many areas, inside and outside the lab.
I think it is safe to say that the stereotype of the scientist is shifting more toward an interactive, outgoing, multi-talented individual that is comfortable in a variety of settings. Below is a list of ways trainees, faculty members and overall research productivity is affected when this societal shift is embraced, and extracurricular activities are pursued outside of the lab.
Benefits for trainees:
Benefits for faculty members:
Benefits for overall research productivity:
My sociology friends have told me that everything human beings accomplish depends on how those humans interact with other humans. Pursuing extracurricular activities and multi-disciplinary skill development can make all of us more well-rounded researchers, as well as increase our overall quality of life by increasing work-life balance, enjoyment of work experience, career opportunities, productivity and, of course, enhanced knowledge of the cause and treatment of human disease. At least this is the hypothesis we are testing through our social development in the 21st century.
Do you think extracurricular activities have a positive impact on researchers? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic — email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew J. Watson, PhD
Associate Dean, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs